Colleague's drinking a problem: Ask the Expert

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A: It's not often that our advice is "do nothing," but that's what we are saying this time.

You have done the right thing in raising your colleague's drinking directly with him. But unless you believe that his actions will put others at risk, it's not your business to do anything else. Some people manage quite successfully at work for years on end, despite the damage they are doing to themselves and their private relationships.

"People are responsible for their own behaviour and welfare, unless their actions or inactions jeopardise the welfare of others," says career consultant and business ethicist Roger Steare. "If you had a health and safety fear about your colleague's drinking (which is unlikely in most office jobs) or if you thought his drinking could lead to a serious business mistake of the kind that could cost jobs, for example, that would be different," says Steare. "Then you would have a duty to take the matter further."

In these circumstances alerting HR to your concerns or telling your boss would probably be the best next step. Of course, you might well find that they already know. If you know of your colleague's drink problem, chances are, so do others.

Next week's question: A friend of mine was the last man standing after five rounds of interviews with a hedge fund. The final step was a talk with the chairman whose first question was "Where are you from?" My friend told him he was British of Pakistani origin. The rest of the interview was a discussion on ethnicity and colonialism, plus a description of the role at the fund. A few days later my friend was told by the headhunter that the chairman had vetoed his appointment. The headhunter was speechless. My friend doesn't want to pursue the matter for fear of jeopardising his prospects, but I am furious for him and want to do something. Has there been a breach of law and is there a legal and recognised way of naming and shaming that doesn't involve suing?

What would you advise? Send your answer to:

Look out for the Experts' answer to this dilemma and readers' comments on Ask the Expert next week! If you would like to submit a question to our panel of experts,


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